Written by  :  Bregalad (963)
Written on  :  May 15, 2008
Platform  :  Game Boy Advance
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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A good RPG, surprisingly different from its prequel.

The Good

Breath of Fire 2 is the second entry in the RPG legacy of Breath of Fire, like its predecessor it was originally released on the Super NES console and like its predecessor it was re-released on the Game Boy Advance. Since I ran on an used Game Boy Advance cartridge, and I wanted to play this game after playing (and enjoying) the original, I didn't hesitate to buy it and so I will tell you about that game too.

This game takes places a long time after the original Breath of Fire, story-wise in the same world but the geography is still completely different. Anyways, a good thing is that the story of this game is deeper and better than the story in the original. You take control of the Dragon clan Ryu, son of a preacher in a quiet village (Gate), which isn't without remembering the hero of the original, his hair is also blue but this time he has shorter hair and green eyes, and looks taller. The game starts by a flashback. Ryu's little sister Yua escaped in the back mountain of the village, because she has dreams about their early-dead mother here. As Ryu feel asleep to try to get dreams like his sister, when he awakes and return to the village, nobody recognizes him and his family has disappeared, another preacher is in place of his dad and says the church takes care of lonely orphans. Here, he meets with another orphan, Bow, and quickly become friends while escaping for the village in hope to find a greater town. Years later, they became rangers in a greater town and take all kinds of jobs nobody wants to. The game starts out you doing the job of rangers, and finally you end up saving the wold somehow. That's a great plot, and there is a lot of twists all the way along. This is the kind of game that may allow you to do things that you'll never do in a real life, like killing monsters (okay that's classical), but also ride a whale on its back, eat cockroaches, go inside the body of a person or visit the inside of toilets (which turns out to be a secret cave). As a plus, the plot is really frightening towards the end. I'm quite surprised they didn't censor a thing or two. I would tell more, but that would spoil you the pleasure.

Also it's one of the only game I know where no less than 3 religions co-exists in the same fictional universe. Not to mention that there is many clans (aka races), like the Dragon Clan, the Wind Clan (that returns from the original Breath of Fire), but also new clans like the Cat Clan, Dog Clan, Frog Clan, etc... I probably forgot to mention a few less common clans, but also the Forest Clan (aka Wolf Clan) from the original hasn't returned which is sad since it was my favorite. The world map is decently large (about the same size as the world map of the original Breath of Fire), which make the world quite lifelike.

The controls are perfect, especially in the GBA version where you can run, and the battle system is solid. They removed the feature to turn into a dragon, and to have all support magic spells cast first, which were great features. However, they added a new dragon-transformation system which add challenge from the previous (it uses all your AP to do a one-time big attack), and added special commands, that are unique to each character, which allow them to do a special attack that only they can do. For example, Ryu have "Guts" which is able to heal him a little, but the more frequently you use it, the less it will heal. All characters have cool abilities like that, but overall, most of them are useless and/or impractical. A very cool addition is the shamans. You can find shamans which are more or less hidden in the game, and if you do you'll be able to fuse the soul of your characters with the souls of shamans (up to 2 shamans at a time), giving them more power. If you're lucky, you'll get a palette swap of the character, and if you're even more lucky you'll get a new form of him, more powerful and more cool, with another special ability ! However, if the character is wounded in battle, all shamanisation is cancelled and that is annoying as it's hard to have it last for a long while.

The soundtrack of the game is overall rather good, especially battle themes and boss themes. The best boss theme is only heard a couple of time on the hardest bosses, but the regular boss theme is very cool too. Like the original Breath of Fire, the battle theme change one time in the middle of the game, switching to a slightly less good one (in my opinion) but still alright. The overworld music changes 2 times, and the middle one is a remix of the best overworld music of the original Breath of Fire, aka one the best overworld music of all time. I really loved to hear it again, as it is an absolutely awesome track. The sound effects are alright, not very varied, but sounds for offensive spells are still really cool.

The Bad

Not all the music of the game is that good. In fact the town music is mid-decent and really get boring quickly, especially considering they had up to 4 town musics in the original and here there is only one short and annoying town music heard in most places (thanks god a couple of towns still have different better music). Also, there were 3 dungeon musics in the original, while here there only is one and that one is really, really terrible. You hear it in most instances of the game and it's really annoying, since the song is terrible. If you have played Super Mario Bros on the NES (who haven't) you should remember the stressful music heard in fire castle. That annoying dungeon music is almost the same, played twice slower and with a slightly different baseline. You see the picture. Music head in castles also pisses me off really bad, with horrible sounding synthetic trumpet. Even for the low sound quality of the GBA this isn't decent.

Just like the music, the graphics are really a mixed bag. The good thing is that they didn't just rip the graphics of the original, in fact almost no graphics here are from the original. However, they managed to get smaller, less detailed and much less varied graphics than the original. The heroes looks slimmer and less detailed on the map. Only the battle background and enemies actually still looks as good as they did in the original. Battle characters looks quite good either, but they don't move anymore, they stay at their place, while in the original they actually moved and slashed the enemy in the face. The length of the hero's hair varies a lot between pictures. He has short hair on artwork and menu picture, but his battle sprite has long hair. His field sprite seems to have mid-long hair. His dragon transformations looks cool, but the background is blacked out while dragon transformation of the original preserved background graphics.

The worst of all are world map graphics. The original Breath of Fire did have a rather good looking overworld, with a lot of details. Here, if it weren't for the transparent clouds, the world map looks like it is straight out of a Game Boy Color game. Trees are smaller than hero's sprite, graphics are unvaried and not very detailed. The water is still animated, and you still have day/night palette swaps. Clouds in the night really looks wrong, though. Despite all that can say about the graphics, they still does the job for an old-school RPG, and there is still some good looking stuff, namely character portraits and magic spells, and you get a few detailed cutscenes (I guess exclusive to GBA) that are awesome. What just makes me complaining is the Breath of Fire II is the only game I know that managed to have less good graphics than its prequel.

A thing I didn't like is the high encounter rate in some places, and while you can use the smoke item to get less, it isn't really that efficient. While the battle system is solid, it's still an old round-based system, that gets old quickly after a while.

When it comes to the translation, they get error that even I (non-original English speaker) can notice, and got "Yes/No" answers inverted at least 2 times within the game. They also ask you trick questions that gets you in real trouble if you answer wrong a couple of times. Fortunately internet walkthroughs exists (but they didn't in the original SNES release of the game). The moral of this game is that you should be absolutely sure about what you want, never doubt about your mind and not be influenced by what anyone says or ask you. If you do you'll be screwed a couple of times.

The Bottom Line

Breath of Fire 2 is a great sequel, it fixes the difficulty and quality of the story of the original, but music, graphics, and the battle system are a mixed bag. Overall it's still a good experience, and if you're looking for a cool portable RPG and don't mind oldschoolness, you're looking to the right place. If you want to play only one Breath of Fire amount both available for the GBA (or SNES) I'd say I like the original better, even if the sequel isn't all bad.